Four ways to innovate on a budget

Mon Sep 25 2017

For many businesses, innovation might sound like a luxury. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are four tips to help break the mould without breaking the bank.

Igniting the spark of innovation can have a profound effect on your business – whether that’s helping you to stay ahead of the competition, boost morale, delight customers or even save the pennies.
 
Better still, business innovation doesn’t have to cripple your finances. Sure, those with deep pockets can spend heavily on research and development but businesses can still be highly innovative without busting their budgets.
 
And with the UK being the fifth-most innovative nation in the world1, you shouldn’t get caught up thinking that it’s not for you. Innovation is for everyone, and here some top tips to help you unlock it.

1. Innovate through efficiency

Four ways to innovate on a budget - Innovate through efficiency

Becoming an innovative business doesn’t have to mean developing new products or bringing something new to the market. Innovative businesses are also ones that improve upon established practices, and focusing on efficiency can be a great place to begin.
 
There are plenty of things you can do, for example:

  • Have stand-up meetings. These mind-sharpeners can help prevent lethargy, cut time wasting and ward-off the dreaded ‘meetings about meetings’.
  • Ban time-sapping email. Face-to-face conversations can be much more efficient, while also boosting team morale and more effective collaboration.
  • Empower your employees. Giving them a freer rein to make decisions or purchases not only greases the wheels but also brings new thinking into the business – while allowing you to get on with other things more quickly.

Time is money after all, and any associated returns on the bottom line could be used to help fund other innovations further down the line.
 
The way you choose to spend can also play a role.
 
For example, if you frequently find yourself buried under reams of paper and a forest of receipts, could you increase efficiency by putting your spending on a Barclaycard Business card rather than using cash?
 
You could then manage your account quickly and easily through online servicing, which allows you to track spending and download transactions into accounting software. For many businesses, making a digital shift can be transformational. 
 
There’s another potential benefit to this too. Spending on a business credit card – and managing the account properly – could help to boost your business credit score. This may give you more financing options when innovative business ideas come calling.

2. Budget wisely

Four ways to innovate on a budget - Budget wisely

Budgeting properly is a must, so put innovation into your business plan. If you’re unsure where to invest your precious funds, anything that helps you to implement new ideas could be a good place to start.
 
That could mean buying new equipment, travelling to industry events to hear the latest thinking, researching out-of-sector companies to discover innovative business ideas, or even taking a training course to broaden the mind – all are good ways to help you think outside of the box.
 
This is one area where a Barclaycard Business card could help, giving you the financial flexibility needed to take advantage of such opportunities.
 
You can also be smart in your payment choices – one way is to use any interest-free periods that a Barclaycard Business card might offer to help manage your cash flow. Barclaycard Premium Plus cardholders can also get 0.5% cashback on purchases (to a maximum of £400 a year for Premium Plus credit card and a maximum of £1,000 a year for Premium Plus charge card) and save 2% on foreign exchange fees – handy if fuelling your inspiration takes you overseas.

3. Talk to your customers and your peers

Four ways to innovate on a budget -Talk to your customers and your peers

You don’t have to walk the path towards being more innovative alone. There is a wealth of options out there that can help, and one of the most important is simply – but effectively – speaking to your customers.
 
Finding out what they like, dislike and any improvements they want to see can be a real eye-opener that gives you the insight you need to be a lot more dynamic.
 
Local business groups provide a great resource for networking with peers, while Barclays Local Insights is an excellent way to understand more about the local area and stay on top of trends.
 
There can also be more focused support available nearby. Barclays Eagle Labs is one example, designed to help nurture and grow innovative business ideas. The labs can provide access to mentors, inspiring office spaces and specialist equipment, and Barclaycard Premium Plus cardholders can get five days free access.

4. Develop an innovation mindset

Four ways to innovate on a budget -Develop an innovation mindset

Becoming innovative can, in many ways, stem from having the right mindset across your operations.
 
No area is too small to consider – everything you do can be a building block to revamping your business, whether that’s rejigging work schedules, being open to new technology or changing the decor.
 
Look at everything you do to see how you can set yourself apart from your competitors. Marketing language, sales techniques, employee relations, even the look of your products can help you to be innovative if it brings something new to the table.
 
We’ll be delving more deeply into mindset and business planning soon, so watch this space!

Sources

1 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/media-press-releases (June 2017) 

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